Physician use of the curbside consultation to address information needs: report on a collective case study

This study published in the April 2006 issue of the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) combines CME and librarianship in an interesting way. I have included the recommended guidelines for both participants in the consultation. They pretty much apply to human interaction in general: 

Perley CM. Physician use of the curbside consultation to address information needs: report on a collective case study. J Med Libr Assoc 2006;94:137-144.
 Purpose: The author reports key findings from a doctoral dissertation investigating what the curbside consultation is, how and why physicians use it, and what the implications for health sciences library services might be.
 Settings/Informants: Primary informants included sixteen primary care physicians at six sites in one Midwestern state. Additional informants included twenty-eight specialists and subspecialists identified by the primary informants as colleagues who provided curbside consultations.
 Methods: Qualitative research methods were used, including field observations, formal and informal interviews, and conversations with peer review physicians.
 Results: Despite a lack of consensus about what constitutes a "good" curbside consultation, physician informants reported that curbside consultations were part of their medical education and that they continued to take part in them for a number of reasons. Tacit rules govern curbside consultation interactions, and negative consequences result when the rules are misunderstood or not observed.
 Discussion/Conclusion: Acknowledging and understanding physicians' use of the curbside consultation to obtain and construct knowledge may suggest new ways for health sciences librarians to work with physicians in locating, diffusing, and disseminating clinical information.
 PubMed     Free Full Text    JMLA April 2006   
Appendix D.
Guidelines for both participants

  • Physician communication is privileged.
  • Respect each other's time, expertise, and right to make a living.
  • Listen.
  • Be friendly in a sincere way.
  • Focus on the problem.
  • Be concise.
  • Stick to essential information.
  • Display interest, both verbally and nonverbally.
  • Use the conversation as an educational opportunity.

Guidelines for requesting physicians

  • Whenever possible, contact people you know and trust—people with whom you have a relationship.
  • Ask for help, but be sensitive to the fact that the other person may not want or be able to talk at that time.
  • Offer to formally refer the patient, if the person contacted prefers that option.
  • Be specific with all the necessary facts.
  • Know what you do not know and acknowledge that.
  • Speak with confidence.
  • Ask a clear, focused question.
  • Avoid defensive behavior.
  • Do not wait too long to call.
  • Be willing to consider new ideas.

Guidelines for consulted physicians

  • Avoid the implication that the question asked is stupid.
  • Address the question asked.
  • Educate in a tactful manner.
  • Display interest in the patient.
  • Invite physicians from whom you want referrals to contact you for informal consultations as well.
  • Provide information that is not only clinically correct but also practical, workable, and appropriate to the requesting physician.

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